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Readers' brains go native

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4:49pm, June 21, 2002

Some people cough up a lot of dough to master the tough task of reading in English.

Consider the difficulty of learning to read the words cough, dough, and tough, given their nearly identical spellings and vastly different pronunciations.

Unable to rely on consistent ties between letters and sounds, English readers often use additional strategies to decode written words. As a result, their reading-related brain activity differs in intriguing ways from that of Italians reading their native language, in which letters almost always correspond to consistent sounds, a new study suggests.

Two brain areas involved in remembering words exhibit the most activity as native English readers read English words, according to a team of neuroscientists led by Uta Frith of University College London and Eraldo Paulesu of the University of Milan-Bicocca. The areas lie within an extensive brain network previously linked to reading comprehension.

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